Cross-border carriers will all be familiar with the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) ratings established by the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The related scores are based on seven BASICs, tracking problems with unsafe driving, hours-of-service, driver fitness, controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, hazardous materials, and a crash indicator.
Passing grades allow trucks to stay on the road. Poor scores lead to sanctions. And while the rating system is specific to activities in the US, a driver’s bad habits don’t stop at the border, either. Left unchecked, those habits can lead to fines and collisions alike.
The challenges don’t end there. With the exception of hazardous material data and crash indicators, the scores are a matter of public record. The data can be reviewed by anyone who knows a fleet’s DoT number. And it will be difficult to secure a new customer who has cause to worry about potential delays or damaged freight.
Fleets are often surprised at how quickly they can slip outside allowable thresholds. Even if they are avoiding costly collisions, the smaller point totals assigned to illegal lane changes or failing taillights continue to accumulate. Every point will contribute to the CSA score for 24 months. New data collected through the underlying Safety Measurement System (SMS) – which tracks driver and vehicle violations during roadside inspections, crash reports from the previous two years, and collision results – keeps coming.
The most recent problems also have a greater influence on the final scores. Violations recorded in the last six months are graded three times higher than those that occurred more than a year ago. Those that happen between six months and a year ago are scored two times higher than the older results. Mix in a few serious violations, such as crashes that involve injuries or the release of hazardous materials, and a fleet is quickly in trouble.
The warning letter comes first. A full investigation follows if things don’t improve.
Regular reviews can help to identify emerging issues before they attract the attention of enforcement teams or lead to other unwanted costs. In most cases, fleets can get the information they need by checking the scores every quarter. Those who discover troubling trends may want to review the data every month until underlying issues are resolved.
When it comes to vehicle-related scores, the three most common issues involve brakes, lights and tires, according to the FMCSA. An increase in these challenges might be cause to review the pre-trip and preventive maintenance procedures.
The most common source of driver-related points come in the form of hours-of-service or logbook violations, driver qualifications and speeding. They are cause to explore fatigue management programs, driver files, and commitments to defensive driving. Hiring strategies will deserve attention of their own, to ensure that candidates are being assessed for everything from attitudes to skills behind the wheel.
The Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) gives recruiters a chance to review five years of the driver’s crash information and three years of inspection data. Each is updated monthly, so the insight will be up to date. Managers can take this a step further by getting a driver’s consent to regularly review the data to ensure that fleet records remain accurate.
It’s true that a fleet won’t inherit a job candidate’s past violations, but bad habits will remain. And any points these drivers accumulate while on the job will remain on the fleet’s record for two years, even after someone is fired.
Still, the sources of the unwanted scores are not always the driver’s fault. It’s why safety-focused fleets also consider whether there are problems with the underlying corporate culture. The problems with hours-of-service records could be traced to dispatchers who feel pressure to move freight at all costs. Out-of-service violations might involve maintenance teams who are failing to complete proper repairs. In situations like that, disciplining the driver won’t solve the issue.
New business can be a challenge of its own. A fleet that secures a new customer, for example, may be taking a larger number of trips past roadside inspection stations, increasing the exposure to random inspections.
Even the number of kilometres makes a difference. The CSA scores are based on vehicle miles travelled per average number of power units. Therefore, safety teams will want to ensure that their fleets are using updated information, particularly as business evolves.It’s just a good idea to remember that everyone is keeping score.
This month’s expert is Bill Cowan, senior risk services trainer. Bill has served the trucking industry for over 35 years as a driver, safety manager, driver trainer and in loss control and risk management.Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a longstanding history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at www.nbins.com.